My older next-door neighbor usually just ignored us younger
kids. But that day was different. He called me over because he
wanted to see my bike. He said something that I will never forget.
In fact, it became a staple of my vocabulary for the next few years.
He looked me in the eye and said, "That bike is wicked." And
he was right, because it was!
For our illustrious readers, the
term "wicked" became the word of choice to describe literally
ANYthing that was awesome, fantastic, outrageous and basically just
spectacular. Eventually it got weeded out of my everyday vocabulary,
though maybe it should never have been pushed to a back burner. In
fact, I really hadn't thought of the word in years until this past
weekend. In many ways, I think we could all make a case that this
past weekend was one of the most "wicked" of the year. Here are a
few reasons why:
Railers surprised -- or maybe "shocked" is a better word -- the
Fighting Illini beat down the Michigan Wolverines 45-21 in a
"wicked" victory at the Big House!
baseball franchises entered the baseball playoffs at the same
time for the first time in ages. Don't worry, Cub fans -- I'm
not going to bash. I know how painful playoff exits are. I do
think that both teams had such great seasons that I would
classify both of their playoff runs as "wicked!"
The Chicago Bears
wickedly pounded the Detroit Lions 34-7.
basketball team was dealt a big blow during the offseason with
the removal of sharp-shooting guard Jamar Smith. I would
definitely call that "wicked."
The American Ryder Cup came up with a
huge upset win at Valhalla. And it was a sweetly "wicked"
performance (I know that didn't happen this weekend, but like
John Belushi in "Animal House" -- don't stop me; I'm on a roll).
In fact, there are probably lots more wicked examples of amazing
things that happened this past weekend, and hopefully they'll come
to me as we go along here. So, let's get groovin' to all the boss
and cool stuff that went down.
The Railer football team took out the Chatham Titans 35-21. I
can't tell you how "wicked" that is. I love beating Chatham in
anything, and to think that they invited us down for their
homecoming and senior night made that victory a little extra
special, don't you think? Hats off, boyz... now build on that ...
don't settle for some success ... go for more!
And how 'bout the Illini's truly "wicked" performance in Ann
Arbor? I sure didn't see that coming. I know the Wolverines are
under first-year coach Rich Rodriquez, but you never expect anyone,
much less the Illini, to score 28 unanswered points against
Michigan, especially before their 109,000 screaming maniacs -- talk
about a "wicked" home-field advantage.
And yet the Fighting Illini went into Michigan, and after a slow
start netted them a 14-3 disadvantage, they just blew up! Juice
Williams racked up 431 total yards, and get this --that is the most
total yards that ANY opponent has EVER had at Michigan Stadium. I'd
call that "wicked," wouldn't you? Are you kiddin' me? How long have
they been playing football at Michigan? A hundred years? Longer? And
this is the most ever? Wicked indeed!
Other "wicked" performances turned in by the Men in Orange were:
Daniel Dufrene's clutch catch of Juice's rainbow screen delivery,
his nice cut-back and his 57-yard wickedly fast dash to pay dirt!
Jeff Cumberland was having a "wicked" day in the other direction.
Since he'd been flagged for two penalties, no one expected Illinois
to come back to him on the next play, but they did. Cumberland made
a stellar catch and a "wicked" pirouette and then turned and
scampered the rest of the way en route to a 77-yard scoring scamper.
Besides throwing for two scores, Juice made sure that the
Wolverines noticed his "wicked" running skills as well. Williams
danced into the end zone two times to add to his historic day.
Jason Ford and Mikel LeShoure also served notice that Illinois'
"wicked" team does not consist of just one man in an Orange No. 7
jersey. Regis Benn was once again everywhere, catching six passes
for 121 yards and rushing for another 20-plus yards on the ground.
And the list goes on and on.
Don't forget about the "wicked" Illini defense. After spotting
Michigan two early scores, they relinquished only one more touchdown
the rest of the way. They held the Wolverines to 5-of-15 on
third-down conversions, 69 yards net rushing and recovered two
fumbles. That, my friends, is downright wicked!
Wow! Isn't it great to beat Michigan? I think it's wicked! Now
the really wicked thing to do is to get wickedly consistent and do
this week after week. That's what I'll be looking for in the next
game at home versus the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
If you love to watch the highlights like I do, check this out
from the Big Ten Network:
I do want to take a minute to salute the Chicago Cubs and the
Chicago White Sox for winning their respective divisions. That is no
small task, and a playoff ouster does not take away from the
accomplishments of a great season by both ballclubs. I know it is
wickedly raw right now, but you have to like the future of both of
these franchises and look for better postseason results in the
I also need to salute the Chicago Bears for the wicked way they
disposed of the Detroit Lions 34-7. When the Bears OL gives Kyle
Orton time to throw and the running game gets established, the Bears
may not be the class of the league, but they are competitive. The
Vikings stole one in the Big Easy on Monday night, but I still think
that the Bears should win the division.
I know that some guys were against putting Devon Hester in as a
wideout, but even when they don't throw him the ball, he occupies at
least two defenders. I don't think you have to throw to eight
different receivers as Chicago did on Sunday, but the more
multifaceted the offense, the wickeder it is to stop. And you can
quote me on that.
Kudos and props to the defense for simply shutting down the
Lions. I know that this was only Detroit. And that perhaps the Lions
are not much of a team. But, you can only play who is on your
schedule, and you must take care of business. And didn't Detroit
have a little success against the Bears just last season? I rest my
case! I'll take a wicked win over a wicked loss any day of the
A dose for Illini hoops junkies. Some periodicals have already
weighed in and have selected the Illini to finish around seventh in
the Big Ten race. That is a wicked prediction, depending on whose
side you're on. Actually, it may be good, as it takes some of the
pressure off this squad. There will still be more waiting in the
wings. Most fan bases are not very patient. I believe that Illinois'
has grown way more impatient over the last couple of years. The
prognosticators are penciling in the Illini for a .500 season... I
hope it's a lot better than that.
[to top of second column]
In order for that to happen, somebody or a couple of somebodies
will have to be simply wicked from the perimeter this season. The
Illinois "bigs" will have to be rough and tumble in the paint and
take no prisoners. All in all, the way for this team to have a
measure of success is to be like the St. Louis Blues of the middle
'80s. That bunch had no reason to be successful. They weren't very
talented. They didn't possess all the hockey skills that you're
looking for. They didn't skate very fast. And everybody wrote them
off ... except ... the players themselves. They decided to play a
wicked brand of hockey. They clutched, they grabbed, they scratched,
they clawed, and when they had to, they crawled. It was all for one
and one for all, and somehow, some way they achieved a success that
only fairy tale movies seem to achieve. They came within one game of
making the Stanley Cup finals on a team that really should've never
even made the playoffs. It was a wicked experience.
I know you don't usually get hockey analogies related to college
basketball, but that's why I write for Lincoln Daily News. That's
why I'm not famous like Jay Mariotti (are you kidding me?)! I'm just
saying that I want to see a lot of fight in this year's squad. It is
the thing that can help them stay competitive and maybe even give
them a chance to surprise a lot of people. I want to be surprised.
Hopefully Greg Taylor and I will get an inside look in the next
month, and then we'll report back to you wonderful fans.
As you can see, I threw in a bone for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. I
know they didn't play this past weekend, but beating the Europeans
always registers on my radar. I thought it was pretty wicked, and I
wanted to give them a special salute.
Shameless plug No. 1
Speaking of "Wicked"... I finally got to see that musical. It
seems that yours truly celebrated a 25th wedding anniversary to the
girl of my dreams, Melinda (actually it's today -- Happy
Anniversary, Honey)! We both love to work and don't like to take
days off, especially during the school year, but I did talk her into
going away with me to Chicago for the weekend. We took a little work
along with us (in fact, she got up early in the morning and worked
over six hours) and mixed in some fun along the way. She announced
to me on Saturday morning that maybe she'd like to see a Broadway
show since we were staying in the theater district. So, I checked on
the shows: "Dirty Dancing" and "Wicked." I knew she would like
"Dirty Dancing," but they didn't have much of a ticket selection
left at such a late date.
I then checked on "Wicked" over at the Oriental Theatre. They had
tickets for the matinee and the evening shows. Before I plunked down
the cash, someone told me to go down to the corner to the Borders
store. When I arrived, I was told to go to the third floor, fill out
a form and place it in the witch's hat. I'm an easy mark, so I did
what some of the kibitzers told me to do. It appears that the
theater gives away approximately 20 tickets (sometimes more) for
every performance of "Wicked" about two hours before the start of
every performance. You have the option of purchasing one or two
tickets for 25 bucks, but you must be present to win, you must have
a photo ID, and you must stick around to get your voucher to take to
the theater with your cash. You trade that all in for two tickets in
row one or row two.
"The score looked pretty bleak for the Mudville nine that day..."
As the ladies called out the names, I knew we were nearing the end
of the drawing. I also knew that I am one of the unluckiest people
on the planet when it comes to winning drawings and such. Then I
heard one of the gals say, "And the winner of the final two tickets
is Jeff Mayfield." It takes a lot to stun me, but I was stunned. Not
stunned enough to reject my winnings.
So, there we were in Chicago celebrating our 25th wedding
anniversary, front row, center stage. I wonder if she is finally
glad she married me? That's a column for another day under a
But before I move from this one, let me just say what an awesome
show "Wicked" really is. The singing borders on sensational. The
costuming and sets were the best I have seen since I saw Yul Brynner
in the "King and I" in New York. The actors and actresses are some
of the better ones that I have ever witnessed.
This show is high-energy. The humor is constant, witty and
actually funny. One of the best compliments I can give this
production is that everything seems to fit. In most musicals they
try to make everything fit and they achieve varying degrees of
success. This play knocks it out of the park. The crowd was really
engaged and into this show from start to finish.
Gentlemen, do yourselves a favor if you're going to Chicago
anyway... Take your woman to see this show. If you have the family
in tow, take them to see it. If you need an idea for a
father-daughter date for a father and daughter of any age, this is
it. I'll be stunned if you don't like "Wicked." I don't know if I've
ever said this about a play before, but I can't wait to see it
again... That tells you everything you need to know.
Shameless plug No. 2
We stayed at the Hotel Allegro on Randolph Street. As most of you
know, I rarely rave about the accommodations because we are so busy
that we normally just collapse at night and never use a hotel's
amenities. This was different. The Allegro has recently undergone a
$40 million facelift, and it appears that the money was spent in all
the right places.
What she liked -- She liked the art, deco, retro look of the '50s
and '60s. She liked the elegance, the way the rooms were arranged,
the carpets and the decorations. She liked the marble in the
bathrooms, the basin sinks, the fixtures, the overall cleanliness,
and she loved the Aveda bath and body products.
What I liked -- I loved the TVs! I like the location, in that you
are next door to one theater and a stone's throw to another. I like
that there are restaurants in the hotel, across the street and
around the corner. I like that there were doughnut shops all around
and drugstores and convenience marts close by. I like that the L was
a short walk, taxis are easily accessible, but guys like me can
literally walk about anywhere you need to go. I like that it was
only a short walk from the Ogilvie train station (Metra line, for
those interested; Union Station is nearby too), which is how we
traveled into Chicago on this trip, giving us more time for what the
great preacher Robert Lewis calls "conversational companionship." I
like that the staff at the Allegro are either well-trained, love
their jobs, are threatened, or some or all of the above, because
they were friendly, helpful and generally focused on making sure
that we were having a good time.
Bottom line -- I don't like to give hotel recommendations. I
usually think that all hotels are overpriced. Be that as it may,
some people don't care about price; they want amenities, location or
both. If you use Internet sites like I do and try to be a shrewd
steward of your resources, you may be able to find a decent deal at
the Hotel Allegro. I'm not an expert in rating facilities. Some
don't want a remodeled older building and some won't be going to the
theaters. But for me, my family and friends -- and for most trips we
would ever take into the city -- the Hotel Allegro has just been
placed on our charts! We would gladly stay in this 3 1/2 star, but I
must say that our stay was 4-star all the way!
My goal is to be a 4-5 star husband, and I'm sure I have a long
way to go. Anyway, Happy Anniversary, Honey. I LOVE YOU!
[By JEFF MAYFIELD]
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